Take a Bath You Stinker!

April 1, 2015

By Marty (Shtunken) Liboff

There is an old joke about a little boy and girl taking a bath together and the little girl sees the boy’s penis and says, “Can I play with that?” and the boy says, “No! You already broke yours off!” Long, long ago in ancient Rome they built huge bathhouses where people of all classes would go to bathe and mingle. In early Santa Monica and what was to become Ocean Park and Venice, many of the early beach shanties had a toilet but no baths or showers. Sometimes our hotels had a shared bathroom and shower on each floor of a building. As many of you know, our beautiful ocean rarely ever gets warm enough for swimming without a wet suit. Swimming in the ocean in the good old days was dangerous since there were usually no regular life guards. An amazing craze began in the late 1800s with beach bathhouses that had swimming pools filled with ocean water.
In 1876 on the north beach around where Chautauqua Blvd. is today a small bathhouse opened with showers and baths. Soon another bathhouse opened next door with an indoor pool using ocean water. In 1887 the Crystal Plunge opened with an open air seawater pool by what is now the Casa del Mar Hotel at Pico Blvd. In 1890s the huge Arcadia Hotel in Santa Monica had a large bathhouse. In 1894 the North Beach Bathhouse opened just north of the early Santa Monica Pier. It had a large salt water pool and had many dressing rooms and a restaurant. Soon several bathhouses opened along the beach. You could bathe and swim in ocean water without even sticking your toes in the ocean! Most cost about 25 cents, which wasn’t cheap in those days.
In the late 1800s, Abbot Kinney and his partners were busy building Ocean Park on Santa Monica’s southern border. They sold lots and built a pier and resort with gambling. They faced some opposition from the city and the railroads and Kinney and his partners were not getting along together. His partners were Thomas Dudley who sold his interests to Alexander Fraser, Henry Gage and George Merritt Jones. Some streets around the beach were named after them. The story goes that in January 1904, Kinney and his three remaining partners all agreed to flip a coin to see who would stay in Ocean Park and who would leave and take over some land a ways south of Rose Ave. This land was considered worthless swampy marsh land. The coin was flipped and Kinney won the toss. To everyone’s amazement Kinney took the worthless marsh! He proceeded to clear the land and create his fantasy world that he called Venice of America. Some called it Kinney’s Folly.
Abbot Kinney’s ex partners decided they needed to spruce up their Ocean Park resort to compete with the amazing new Venice with its canals, pier and beautiful Italian Renaissance style buildings around what is now Windward Ave. They erected an enormous bathhouse on the Ocean Front Walk at Navy Street. A.E. Fraser hired builder Joseph C. Newscom to construct it. They spent $185,000, a fortune at that time. It took 18 months to build. Back then, everything north of Rose Ave. was still considered Ocean Park. Today the Venice border is just north of Navy St. and the bathhouse would be in Venice. The huge bathhouse opened the same 4th of July weekend as Venice of America in 1905. It was the 8th wonder of the world!
Just north of the new bathhouse the large Hotel Decatur was built. The small Denver Hotel just south of it at Ozone Ave. is now the Israel Levin Senior Center. I still remember the Levin Center many years ago with a second floor. The second floor apartments were removed because of earthquake concerns.
The gigantic new bathhouse was made to look like an enormous Moorish mosque. It resembled the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, Turkey. The indoor sea water pools came to be known as plunges, and this one was called the Ocean Park Plunge. It was also referred to in its early days as the Natatorium in Ocean Park. A “natatorium” is from the Latin and is a building with a swimming pool sometimes enclosed in its own ornate building. It became one of the main tourist attractions in southern California. There were more postcards and photos of it than anything else around here of that era. It had an enormous indoor swimming pool that they claimed was the biggest in the world. The heated salt water pool was 70 by 70 feet. Back then the ocean was much closer to the walkway. They ran pipes under the sand and pumped in ocean water. The water was heated and so you could very comfortably swim all year in sea water. There were filters to clean the sometimes murky sea water that was being pumped in. The filters had to be cleaned regularly. It was like a very early water park with slides, ropes, swinging rings and diving platforms. There was a large staff of lifeguards, matrons, janitors, massage workers and sales and restaurant personnel. After a few years the outside front was lined with shops of all kinds just like the Ocean Front Walk has today. You could buy the latest swim gown and bloomers or buy a hotdog. It was quite an enterprise. Tourists flocked from all over the world to the bathhouse and the Ocean Park Pier and the new Venice of America. At night the bathhouse and the piers were all lit up in a dazzling display of lights.
People have always believed in the medicinal properties of mineral baths and sea water. Tourists were led to believe that basking in the heated ocean water was beneficial to your health. It gave you strength and vitality. Now you could swim all year in warm ocean water. Along with the giant pool, the bathhouse offered lockers and showers. There were hundreds of dressing rooms. You could rent a towel and swim suits so you didn’t need to bring anything with you to the beach. There was a sauna and massage rooms. There were individual hot sea water bathtubs to soak in and then you would jump into a fresh water bath to clean your pores. There was a restaurant and bleachers to watch the swimmers. There were fancy lounges to relax. The new trolleys could bring you in from downtown L.A. for an amazing day at our beach resorts.
When Venice of America opened they had the Surf Bathhouse near the beach by Windward Ave. but it just had changing rooms and showers and no pool. Then another bathhouse opened in 1906 called the Lagoon Bathhouse with a 70 foot by 70 foot heated salt water pool like the Ocean Park Plunge. It was about where the northwest corner of Windward Ave and Main Street is today. Most locals are shocked when they learn that back then the Venice Circle was under water in a big lagoon.
But the Ocean Park Plunge was right on the Ocean Front Walk and looked so awesome. So, not to be out done, Abbot Kinney built another large bathhouse just north of Windward Ave. by the beach. It was about where the the Sidewalk Cafe is today on the beach side. It was called the Venice Plunge and it opened in 1908 and cost $100,000. He combined the Surf Bathhouse with its changing rooms, showers and lockers with an enormous fancy new building. It had an even larger pool than the Ocean Park Plunge! The large, heated, salt water pool was 150 by 100 feet and could hold 2000 people. It was the biggest in the west. It had filters to clean the incoming ocean water. There was a large balcony with seats for 1500 people to watch all kinds of aquatic events below in the giant pool. They staged water polo and swimming and diving contests. Jeffrey Stanton in his wonderful book describes a stunt man who dressed up in a chicken suit and set himself on fire and then dove from the high rafters into the deep pool! What a show! Jeffrey says there was a heating plant near the lagoon at Windward Ave. that kept the place nice and warm. There were both a deep and shallow end. Over the deep end was a high swing. Also at the deep end was a large diving platform with several levels of heights to dive. There were also diving boards and slides. Around some sides of the enormous pool were small fountains shooting up geysers of water. In the middle of the great pool was a big heated fountain where several people could sit and warm their tushies. Abbot Kinney had built a fun aquarium with all sorts of fish by his pier. In his new bathhouse swimming pool he put a large glass window where viewers could watch the swimmers from under water. It was Kinney’s human aquarium! We can imagine this was quite risque for that time watching young men and women swimming underwater in their bathing suits! I wish I could have seen that!
The Venice Plunge had an upstairs that originally had a gym and exercise rooms. Later the upstairs was converted into hotel rooms. In its declining years, the rooms were turned into cheap apartments. It outlasted many of the bathhouses along our beaches and even escaped an arson attempt in 1914 and the great pier fire in 1920 that destroyed most of the original Venice Pier.
From photos and post cards I see there were several bathhouses built within a few miles along our beaches. There was one in Malibu that looked like a beautiful little castle. There was the one by Chautauqua Blvd. and another near Topanga Canyon called the Santa Monica Canyon Bathhouse. There was the North Beach Bathhouse next to the Santa Monica Pier and the one in the Arcadia Hotel. There was the Crystal Plunge and later there was a bathhouse south of Pico Blvd. around Bicknell Street and another around Ashland Ave. on the north side of the Ocean Park Pier. There were Kinney’s bathhouses and maybe even more. However, the Ocean Park Plunge at Navy Street in Venice that looked like a giant, ornate Muslim mosque may have been the coolest looking. Beach bathhouses became the in thing for a while. Many were built after this along the southern California coast. Large ones were built in Redondo Beach and Long Beach. One of the most famous was the Sutro Baths in San Francisco that was built a couple years before our Ocean Park Plunge. The Sutro Baths had both a large ocean water and also a fresh water pool. Some were financed by the new railroads to promote tourism. Soon the fad was picked up on the east coast and large bathhouses were built at Coney Island, New York and in Atlantic City. Soon every beach resort town wanted a bathhouse. All of them were modeled after our bathhouses. Some pools in conservative towns separated the sexes and had one side for women and the other for men.
I don’t know if they were segregated, but I only see White people in the photos. The bathhouse south of Pico Blvd. at around Bicknell Street was next to the beach where Black people congregated. I imagine they may have had minorities at that nearby bathhouse? This beach area by Bay Street and Bicknell Street where Black people went was called the Inkwell. There is a historic marker in stone there at Bay Street commemorating the Ink Well.
About this time much of the new construction of homes and apartments began to have baths and/or showers. Locals could then take a bath at home. With the dredging to build the canals and the building of Venice, more sand was left on our beach. A couple of break waters were added to slow beach erosion. The new sewer plant and the combination of several piers began to allow the sand to slowly build up over time and the ocean began to get farther away from our Ocean Front Walk. Much more sand was added years later when the Marina was built and dredged out. This made it harder to pump in fresh salt water. Also by the late 1920s the fad was losing its appeal. There were so many bathhouses that the novelty soon wore off. The flappers or sexy girls from the 1920s and early 1930s began hanging out and strutting their stuff on the beach. Even though our ocean is cold much of the time, people began to venture out into the surf more. Plus it was free to just go down to the ocean and jump in. Life guards were hired and trained to watch out for swimmers on the beach. Thousands of people had flocked daily to our bathhouses until the mid 1920s, but by the late 1920s many began to close from lack of business. Maintenance costs for the large pools was high. Just the heating bills alone were enormous. Then the Great Depression hit in 1929 and business at the piers dropped considerably and didn’t begin to pick up again until 1935. By the beginning of WWII most of our giant bathhouses closed from high costs and lack of business. In 1943 the Venice Plunge was closed because the city declared the building unsafe from dry rot. In 1946 the Venice Pier lease wasn’t renewed by the city and the pier was demolished.
Time moves on and waits for no one…fads come and go – styles change – tastes evolve – movie stars and singers change every minute. And so went the great age of the dinosaurs – the massive, expensive to operate plungeasaurus became extinct. The great age of the ocean side plunges was no more…
Our amazing Ocean Park Plunge Bathhouse at Navy Street in Venice was sadly torn down. A new smaller building was put up where different variations of bingo were played. Bingo and gambling had been outlawed in L.A. but they tried to get around the anti bingo laws by creating new variations on the game. They invented funny names like bridgo and tango. Finally in the late 1940s the city closed the last of them down. My mom ran the bakery in Ocean Park and later at the Cadillac Hotel at Dudley Ave., and she used to say that when they closed the bingo parlors the money left the beach. After the bingo parlor closed there I remember it was empty for some time with the big sign up saying bingo. For a while it became a fun slot car racing place where you could rent or bring your slot cars and race them. Unfortunately our beach area kids were mostly poor like me and we couldn’t afford to spend much money there. It closed and was vacant again. It was torn down and it became a parking lot. Some years later they built the Adda & Paul Safran Senior Housing that is there now. Their arched front door is the same shape as the old front door of the wonderful old Ocean Park Plunge bathhouse that once stood there. When I tell people today about the bathhouses with heated ocean water many think it would be a fantastic idea today! However, our board of health would probably never allow it.
Why did the robber take a bath? He wanted to make a clean get away! Well, it’s time for me to try and make a clean get away until I shower you again with more of our amazing local history!
Marty Lboff - Lagoon bathhouse2

Marty Liboff - Lagoon bathhouse1

 

Above: The Lagoon bath house at Main St. and Windward Ave.

where 1501 Main St. is now (north, west side)

Marty Liboff - OP bathhouse2 favorite

Above: The Ocean Park Plunge at Navy St. and the OFW

where the Paul and Adda Safron Senior Housing is nowMarty Liboff - Venice bathhouse1

Marty Liboff - Venice bathhouse2

Marty Liboff - Venice bathhouse3Above: The Venice Plunge exterior and interior

on OFW in front of the Sidewalk Cafe (on the north side of OFW)


Homeless but far from Hopeless

April 1, 2015

By Jack Neworth

Venice Beach is home to some of the most talented street artists and musicians in the world. In some way it’s part of why Venice’s fame extends around the world. And it definitely does. In various polls of desired destinations of international tourists, visiting Venice is #2 right behind Disneyland. That one is a theme park and the other is where people work, live and call home, illustrates that Venice’s notoriety is just one of many enigmas of life here.
Skyrocketing real estate values have also brought additional pressures here leading to seemingly constant battles between developers, landlords and residents. In the middle are often Venice’s street performers and homeless population. With regard to the homeless, to their credit, most Venetians seem to favor compassionate treatment of those less fortunate than themselves.
Among the most respected of the “boardwalk people” is Cornell Smith (AKA “Smitty”), who’s both an artist and homeless. Smitty “resides” at Horizon Avenue and Ocean Front Walk in space #30. Each morning Smitty gets up before 6 a.m. or he will get a ticket. Then he must be in his spot on the boardwalk by 9 a.m., with all his possession, or he faces another ticket.
A plumber for over thirty years, as well as artist, film maker and writer, Smitty is most famous in Venice for his unique wheel chair, which has to be the Cadillac of all wheelchairs with its almost magical feel. It took Smitty three years to build. It includes dozens of sections of plumbing piping.
Hooked up to a powerful hose, the wheel chair becomes a fantastic water show. It has 36 separate valves that open in sequence that when choreographed to his music system, creates a breath-taking performance art. (Let’s see a Cadillac do that!)
Unfortunately, building the chair cost Smitty his last residence near downtown L.A.’s skid row. Apparently, construction of the elaborate chair violated his lease and led to his homeless condition. He certainly can’t afford to store the chair, plus he loves talking to people about it, so Venice is a perfect fit.
Born in Chicago 60 years ago, Smitty was raised with his six siblings, in the dangerous South Side neighborhood with its gangs, drugs and violence. When he was ten his father gave him a Super 8 camera and his dream of being a film maker was born. So it was, that after graduating high school, Smitty wound up attending Columbia College majoring in Film Studies.
In 1992, Smitty won two film making awards and has continued to write screenplays even while without a roof over his head. Despite his difficult living circumstances and health issues, Smitty remains ever hopeful.
Due to Smitty’s diabetes, eight years ago the lower part of his left leg was amputated. He also has a heart condition which often leaves him weak. Add to that the general obstacles all homeless folks face, and you can imagine the day-to-day challenges Smitty deals with.
For example, just sleeping can leave a homeless person vulnerable to being robbed or attacked. Fortunately Smitty has friends on the boardwalk who protect one another. And then there’s always the fear of police harassment, though Smitty says for the most part the police make an effort to treat the homeless with respect.
Some of Smitty’s friends have created a website hoping to start a new life: Www.cheapestactors.com – it includes a profile on many of Smitty’s friends looking for work as actors and/or background players for TV and movies. The community motivates each other and are like family. For example, if someone needs a visit to the doctor’s, Smitty gladly drives them in his wheelchair.
Smitty continues to dream that one of his many scripts will ultimately see the light of day. His goal is to have his work read by a Hollywood producer. He’s currently crafting a low-budget gangster movie set in the Depression-era Chicago.
As summer approaches, tourists are flocking here in even greater numbers. On any given day, his health permitting, Smitty can be seen lovingly tinkering with his wheelchair like the caretaker of a great work of art. Despite his physical ailments, Smitty is always eager to answer tourists’ questions and pose for photos. It pleases him to imagine that, as these tourists return to their homes all across the globe, a tiny part of himself goes with them.
(To find our more about Smitty and or see his magical wheelchair, go to Ocean Front Walk and Horizon Avenue, space #30, or email: jnsmdp@aol.com.)

Jack Neworth pxAbove: Smitty at the wheel of his all-purpose wheelchair

 


Long Live Millie Mims!

March 1, 2015

By Suzy Williams

In honor of International Women’s Day and the corresponding Beachhead March issue, I would like to shed some fresh Venice daylight on a remarkable and real woman, Millie Mims, the nourishing Goddess of the Boardwalk. Many of you know that she serves up a delicious organic vegetarian soup,  (she gathers the yummy comestibles from local farmers’ market surpluses), hot rice and a big salad every day, rain or shine, to the hungry people of Venice, just about a hundred a day  (every day except Thursday). Whole Foods donates really great bread.
She attracts volunteers to help her serve, but she does much of the cooking and schlepping herself. That kind of tangible daily devotion to sheer human kindness is something that should (and often does!) inspire us all. She is interested not only in feeding people good food, but also in nurturing positive energy and connectedness. She inspires us to be kind – first and foremost in life.
Last month I attended a benefit for Millie and her organization, New Life Society. It was hosted by the handsome Robert Walsh, treasurer for the aforementioned NLS, at Big Red Sun, a beautiful hippie store on Rose that sells classy succulent planters and such. It was very heartening to see lots of young, rather well-off folk forking over $125.00 each to party down with Millie Mims.
So if you happen to be down on your luck and could use some TLC, or if you’re flush and are inclined to share your good fortune, drop on by Navy and Ocean Front Walk. Come by around 4 P.M. and partake in the largesse of Life, as exhibited by Herself, you know who.

Millie


Rock On, Lisa Green!

March 1, 2015

By Greta Cobar

Lisa Green is one of the Goddesses who makes Venice the colorful, intricate, exciting and interesting place that it is. She has been displaying her art on Ocean Front Walk, by Dudley, for about five years while at the same time being an ever-present advocate for love, justice and equality at our community meetings. To celebrate the 104th anniversary of the March 8 International Women’s Day, the Beachhead chose to spotlight her, out of the thousands of awesome Venice women.

Beachhead: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Lisa Green: International Women’s Day is a call to unite, to honor, to embrace, and act as strong willful and passionate women. Our voices have enormous power and now more than ever we as women, all connected on Earth, must assist in shifting the balance of power towards equality.

BH: What brought you here?
LG: About ten years ago, I went through one and a half years of cathartic life-changing events that ultimately brought me here all the way from Florida. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my mother died during my recovery, my long-term relationship came to an end, and I resigned from my job as a corporate financial analyst. I had to re-engineer myself and gave away almost everything I had, except for my dog Tiki. The two of us made the journey to Venice about eight years ago.

BH: Why did you choose Venice?
LG: I went through a spiritual awakening and I was unequivocally drawn to Venice as the place that I had to go to if I wanted to continue growing. It is the place I chose to find myself in the new chapter of my life. I knew that Venice was next in my journey.

BH: And where did that journey take you?
LG: When I came here I started to re-define myself as a more politically active artist. I joined socialist groups and participated in peace marches, did homeless outreach on skid row, became an active Green Party member. At first I was still holding a corporate job, as a financial analyst, in El Segundo. I was really good at what I was doing. But my integrity did not allow me to work for a screwed-up boss, and most of them are.

BH: How did you leap from that to being an artist on Ocean Front Walk?
LG: I was an artist my whole life – my father encouraged it. I used to draw, did glass mosaic and worked with clay. I gave it all away. Back in Florida, when attending craft festivals, I wanted to be on the other side, as an artist. Here in Venice, I started my own company, Green Earth Creations. I was designing cotton t-shirts and printing them myself, and was also making soy candles. At that time these were acceptable sale items on Ocean Front Walk, and I joined the lottery that was in effect at that time. When I did get a spot, I spent weekends on Ocean Front Walk displaying my creations, but I was still holding on to my corporate job in El Segundo.

BH: Where were you living at that time?
LG: I was at the hostel on Lincoln, the motel in Ocean Park, and an apartment in Mar Vista. I stopped participating in the lottery for spaces about a year after I started because I could see the conflict, division, corruption and distraction that it was creating. And it pissed off my boss, but I resigned from my corporate job in El Segundo around that time as well. I already knew Diane and Ibrahim Butler and we talked, and decided that we would join forces and camp out by Dudley, in front of the Bistro. With their encouragement and after seeing how they lived, I decided that I could do the same thing they were doing: be vehicle-housed. It was something that I chose for a number of reasons. Inherently it is my right to live my life in an alternative way that gives me freedom from a lot of the socio-economic trappings that would tie up a lot of my time and take me away from my art and the message I want to share with everyone. I set out to be a voice for others and live in a way that most of society doesn’t understand.

BH: And that’s when you started displaying your art next to Ibrahim?
LG: Yes, my paintings, sculptures. I knew that my artwork and my way of living would have a profound impact and people would come after me and try to stop what I was doing. But living that way kept me protected from certain individuals who might challenge me and the message that I was delivering. They couldn’t take away from me the things they usually go after: your house, your financial reputation, your family. Because of the way I live I had freed myself as much as possible from the constrictions and the idea of what is supposed to matter in America.

BH: Do you feel that you found what you set out searching for when you came to Venice?
LG: I found many of me – quite a few. Yes, without a doubt because I am living my life more authentically, living my truth, and I am using my natural abilities to be creative. The corporate world gave me intimate knowledge of the financial structures in different organizations, and that helped me when speaking out against the mis-use of power. I did a lot of soul-searching and healing in this process. It’s an ongoing process.

BH: Did you find that Venice was the right place for you to come to?
LG: Venice gave me a space to reveal my true self to the world. It is a mystical, intense place, and I am an intense person. It is synchronicity. Venice is love – the strongest power in the Universe. Ocean Front Walk is the front line – or the end of the line.

BH: How has Venice changed in the last eight years that you’ve been here?
LG: I’ve seen a lot of changes in Venice, such as gentrification, especially over the last three years. I’ve seen many people around Venice coming together to stand against injustice – the amount of people now working together is new. Before people were holding grudges against each other and not connecting. Like this person was not talking to this person because of something that happened ten years ago. These were stalemates and digressions. Venice is coming together in crisis, it is phenomenal like that. Now there is more unity and common ground, people are coming together. People are taking care of each other more. People are coming together to have a dialogue not only with each other, but with the planet. Grassroots movements have sprouted in the last few years, and people are making a difference socially, politically and environmentally in a very positive, non-violent way.

BH: Do you hold hope for our struggles?
LG: Most people would prefer to be humane rather than hurtful and hateful, but there are wounds that we have to heal from, individually and collectively, and in order to do the healing each person has to be willing to face their fears and look inside themselves and resist the urge to only see the problems outside of themselves. Venice can be a place of harmony on Earth. Work on yourself, not on attacking outside of yourself – if you hate anything outside of you it comes from within.

BH: As an artist, do you feel that art plays a part in our individual and collective struggles?
LG: Everyone has the ability to be an artist. Art comes in many facets. It is in the middle of EARTH. The more you tap into your own creativity, the more you understand yourself and the world around you, the more you can heal yourself and live more peacefully. We’re all creating our own reality. Take back the story – control the story! I win because I’m telling the story.

Lisa Green


Venice Beach: The People’s Beach

March 1, 2015

By Peggy Lee Kennedy

Why did the City of Los Angeles close the people’s beach from midnight to five in the morning? I have heard it all: the gangs, the homeless, drugs, prostitution, et cetera, et cetera. The truth is that Ordinance 164209, amending LAMC 63.44 in 1988, does not say why the City of Los Angeles closed access to the beach in Venice from midnight to five in the morning. And, according to California State law, a municipality or a personal land owner cannot deny access to our coastal waters. Sure, there are exceptions like a giant tidal wave, a terrible tsunami, or maybe a nuclear disaster.
In case you haven’t been paying attention or you are new to Venice, there is a process to restricting access to the beaches in the State of California dictated by the California Coastal Act. You first must obtain a Coastal Development Permit (CDP), and recent court findings have upheld this. Even if there is a nuisance, the applicant first must prove a valid reason to restrict access to the coastal waters and go through the CDP process. This involves the public, by the way. Creating a beach curfew that has a maximum restriction to coastal access is simply a violation of the Coastal Act, which requires maximum access.
The City never ever obtained approval to close the beach in any way. Over and again the City has said that it does not need a CDP. I guess some might want you to believe that there is a nuisance so great that the City of Los Angeles can-over ride State law. Wrong. There is a provision in the Coastal Act regarding nuisances, but you can’t use it to negate the CDP requirement. I do think those remaining spent fuel rods at San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant are very concerning. And Diablo Canyon is scary. But let’s get real: this is about homeless people being on the beach next to properties with skyrocketing values into the millions of dollars.
I am so sick and tired of the City feeding us Orwellian crap about how they are taking steps to end homelessness when the budget is simply telling another, more honest story.  The City’s 2014-2015 budget dedicates 43.4 percent of the general fund to the Police Department. That is approximately 1.3 billion dollars. B I L L I O N. Guess how much went to the Housing Department? That would be ZERO.
There are a few things I learned from my life as an accountant. One is that if it’s not in the budget, don’t expect to spend money on it. After reviewing the numbers and following the money (OK it’s a simple pie chart found online), the truth is the City of Los Angeles really does believe we can police our way out of homelessness.
On the same shameless beat, the city goes on allowing the big box million dollar “home” developments in the Venice Coastal Zone on top of a demolished community character and lost forever affordable housing. There is a pretty profit for the few and foreseeable increased property taxes for the City. This is what the city has been protecting now for years.
Los Angeles is one of the least affordable places to live in the country and the recent “Poverty and Inequality Report 2014” by Stanford University reveals that the official poverty rate has increased dramatically. Fear mongering is in lock step with this. Be afraid; be very afraid when you hear: “We need more police.” If you or your friends are saying this, please check for zombie bites on your bodies. Los Angeles City has the third largest police force in the country and it is increasingly becoming more militarized, dwarfed only by a more militarized NYPD. But I do digress. And the percentage of New York City’s budget allocated to its police department is substantially less than the City of Los Angeles.
There are some monies from the County that the city of L.A. uses for homeless issues. I understand that Venice’s allocation is being spent on the over-the-top hazmat cleanings on the Ocean Front Walk (and elsewhere) so you are safe from even a chair on the OFW. And the City has been focusing on confiscating homeless belongings, including hard to carry around tarps and tents, because they may be violating the disability act by blocking a sidewalk. We wouldn’t want the disabled homeless people doing that, especially since there is an overwhelming amount of this country’s disabled population living homeless. Venice is no exception.
One L.A. City expenditure executed on homeless people, which goes completely unreported, is the unimaginable amount of tickets being issued for minor infractions. They are handed out like candy by the LAPD – possibly to reflect some kind of increase in “nuisance” crime on our beach.
Please, stop and meditate on what the real solutions to homelessness are.  It is not excessive ticketing by a police department being allocated over 43 percent of the City’s budget and it certainly is not closing public access to the entire Los Angeles City coast line.
Venice is the people’s beach. Let’s take it back.Peggy Kennedy

Peggy Kennedy CityBudgetByDept


THE BEAT GOES ON

February 1, 2015

By Marty Liboff

YOU ARE ALL UNDER ARREST!! John Haag started our beloved Beachhead newspaper in 1968. He had run the legendary Venice West Cafe at 7 Dudley Ave. in Venice from 1962 to 1966 with his wonderful wife Anna. Believe it or not, you could be arrested back then just for reading a poem with a 4 letter word or displaying a painting with a naked woman! No matter that our museums are full of naked Roman statues and Ruben’s paintings of large nude women – back then the moral police could harass and arrest you for this!
In the mid 1950s the North Beach in San Francisco and Greenwich Village in New York had like a crazy new movement called the Beats. Man, like people would like write poetry and sometimes beat like cool bongo drums. Jazz music, beards, drugs, sandals, and sex were all part of the beatnick counter-culture. They believed that each of us has his/her inner artist that can come out in painting, poetry, dance, music, ceramics, photography, writing and sculpture. They invented their own hip lingo. Dig it man, it’s far out! Many had come from affluent families and had good educations but had rebelled against the excess consumerism that Americans were sold into after WWII and the Korean wars. They thought of themselves as cool hip cats and everyone else wearing suits and slaving for the almighty dollar were squares.
The Venice West Cafe Expresso was started in 1957 by the bearded and man like crazy Beat poet Stuart Perkoff. Another older writer and poet, Lawrence Lipton had moved to Venice and had successful poetry readings at his house and other homes around Venice. Alan Ginsberg, Anais Nin and other famous poets of the day had come there. Lawrence had become the shaman of the new Venice West Beats and a mentor to the younger Stuart. Lawrence thought maybe he could start a Beat movement in our like cool town by the sea. Venice was a nice, but run down mostly Jewish neighborhood. The rents were cheap and a few artists already lived in the many turn of the century cottages and cheap hotels, some that were built by our town’s founder Abbot Kinney. Stuart Perkoff saw how successful Lawrence Lipton’s Beat poetry sessions were and thought a coffee shop with poetry and maybe some jazz and paintings by new Beat artists would be fun. He borrowed some “bread” otherwise known as a few bucks from his parents and rented the little store at 7 Dudley Ave. and turned it into a coffee shop. Little did he know such a seemingly innocent venture would cause a moral fire storm!
Stuart proclaimed, “Men & women of Venice, lovers, children, holy citizens of the heavenly city, all around you there is the sweet air of love!” The cafe opened and became a family hangout for the artists of Venice and Perkoff”s kids and pals. It had bare brick walls that were decorated with new art and poetic sayings. A mixed lot of old tables and chairs filled the room. There was an old fridge and stove behind a counter and you felt you were sitting in Stuart’s living room or his pad. There was a chess set and usually a conga drum. Splattered on one wall was the saying, “Art is love is God”. There were only a couple dozen or so regular Beats around Venice and how could they drink enough coffee and sandwiches to keep it going? Many of the Venice regulars like had no bread or were broke anyway. Right away the city came down on these beatniks with any health violation they could think of. Poor Stuart was disillusioned by a lack of paying customers and the city’s harassment and sold the business in 1959 for $200 to John Kenevan.
Lawrence Lipton and others of the hip Beat movement had gone on radio and TV. Lawrence declared that, “Venice West is to Los Angeles what the Left Bank once was to Paris!” Books were being written about the Beats like Lipton’s very popular book, “The Holy Barbarians”. His book and talks sometimes mentioned the Venice West Cafe. Soon the cafe was booming with tourists and would-be beatniks. Tourists came with cameras. Tourists walked the Ocean Front Walk searching for someone that might look like “Maynard G. Krebs”, the funny beatnik on the “Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” TV show, so they could take their picture. TV and radio reporters came to show these wild “barbarians”. Beatniks were suddenly so popular that Stuart Perkoff even got on the Groucho Marx TV show, “You Bet Your Life”!
Down near Windward Ave. Eric “Big Daddy” Nord rented an old Abbot Kinney building on the Ocean Front and called it the Gas House. “But it’s alright now, in fact it’s a gas!” It was a haven for the beatniks and their art and music. “Big Daddy” was a bearded giant daddy-o at 6 foot 8 inches and up to 400 pounds! He left the San Francisco beatnik scene after failing with a Beat joint there and tried his luck in Venice. Suddenly there were two cool Beat hangouts in Venice.
Almost immediately some local realtors and developers tried to rally the square community to close them down and throw these worthless bums out. They got our local bureaucrats and the LAPD to join in the harassment. They complained about weird people, drugs and noisy music. They screamed that beatniks were lowering property values on the beach. Sound familiar today? They had undercover agents hang out at the cafe and Gas House and they reported nudity and drinking. Some ranted about immorality like Black men kissing White women! The police declared that you needed an entertainment license to read a poem and closed them down. The health department came up with any excuse to shut them down. Lawyers for the Beats kept the Gas House open for a while but they couldn’t have poetry shows or allow the beatniks to live there anymore. In 1963 the city forced the closure and demolition of the Gas House and the beautiful old Saint Marks Hotel next door. The city began condemning many of the old buildings around Windward Ave. They figured if they demolish the cheap housing then these “undesirables” will have to go away. “Big Daddy” returned to San Francisco.
In around 1960 a young, good looking John Haag and his beautiful wife Anna came to Venice. He wanted to be a Venice West poet. John was born in 1930 in N.Y. He was a well educated Harvard man. Anna was born in 1937 in Italy. In the early 1960s they rented a small space next door to the cafe and called it the Venice Music and Arts Center. They figured this tiny spot would have music, art and poetry. They became activists in several civil rights groups. In 1962 they took over the Venice West Cafe next door from John Kenevan. Kenevan, like Perkoff, had been constantly picked on by the police, the health department, city hall and some prudish neighbors. Kenevan was happy to turn the cafe over to John and Anna Haag.
In 1964 John Haag sounded a cowbell in the cafe and a poet came up and read a poem. Immediately four plain-clothed vice officers planted in the audience and at least four more regular cops arrested John for entertainment without a police permit. Soon after our Venice city councilman tried to outlaw playing drums along the public beach. Mayor Yorty talked about bulldozing all of Venice and starting over!
John and Anna didn’t go down without a fight. They got lawyers and kept having poetry. The city council went ahead and outlawed drums on the beach at that time and continued to harass John and other beatniks. My mother ran a bakery in the Cadillac Hotel a few feet away and I hung out by the cafe often. I remember well one incident where John was arrested and his wife Anna began screeching like a mad lioness at the cops! She and John were both awesome people. We thought of them as the King and Queen of Venice! John began orchestrating demonstrations at city hall. He got radio and TV to cover some of the proceedings.
I used to go and hang out sometimes at the cafe. John and Anna were good friends with my mom, Ruthie in the bakery. I was 14 ½ when they took over the cafe. After they opened I liked to go and read the magazines and books. They put some free newspapers by the door and there were reading copies of books and magazines by the window. There were new books and magazines by the counter. I loved to look through them for cartoons but John would get mad at me for soiling his new books. “Go read the free books!” he would tell me. I would always tell him I had already looked at all the free stuff. He knew I wasn’t going to buy anything! Maybe once I bought a magazine? A cheap one…
Anna ran the cafe. She took food orders, made coffee and sandwiches, served the food and ran the cash register. When it was busy she had another worker help. John would shmooz with the Beats and customers. Sometimes he would get up and read his newest poem. They would often have jazz playing on their stereo or radio in the back while you sat on a junky chair or old couch writing your newest poem. The music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie “Bird” and Mingus were playing in the background while people with berets and goatees sat and sipped coffee. John and Anna and many of the Beats smoked cigarettes in those days and smoke wafted about the room. Most smoked the sacred herb but they usually did that outside in a pagoda or on the sand for fear of the cops. Back then pot was a serious offense. Usually they were opened from dusk to morning. When the sun began to fall the Beat werewolves with bushy beards would begin to like howl their poems to the moon. Usually you would go up to Anna or John and tell them you had a poem and they would ring a bell and you would “blow” your thing. I really loved Anna like a second mom. John and Anna knew me as “Ruthie’s son”. I’d love to go back there now…
Some summer weekend nights when I went to the cafe the place was packed. There were wild eyed bearded men and dancing women even outside. There was the smell of funny cigarettes in the air. Sometimes it was so crowded you couldn’t get in. I remember a couple nights I just stood by the door to try and listen to the poets or a folk singer. I heard that a young unknown poet by the name of Jim Morrison used to come there and listen to poetry. Many times there was someone playing a drum with the poetry. Tamboo the conga drummer had used to be a regular.
In 1966 the owner of the property who hated commies tried to evict John and Anna. Once again they tried to rally support for their cafe. John and Anna had been battling in the courts and from jail and at city hall since they opened the first day! After a dirty battle in court by the owner, the judge gave the Venice West Cafe a temporary stay. However, John and Anna had enough. John had originally come to Venice to be a poet, not to be involved in courts, demonstrations and jail. Sadly, soon after the court battle they gave it up. Business had slumped also. Several bigger and prettier clubs had opened around L.A. The times were also a changing. The beatnik hipsters were transforming into hippies. Jazz and folk music was eclipsed by rock music. Reading poetry wasn’t as cool anymore as listening to rock ‘n’ roll. Jim Morrison began putting his poems to rock music instead of just bongo drums. His music became his poetry.
The civil rights movement in the early 1960s had gotten many people organized politically to fight racism in our country. The war in Vietnam had begun to stir anti-war sentiment. John Haag had written poems even in the late 1950s that were against war. The war began to have more and more killings on both sides, and John and Anna began to put more of their energy into the growing anti-war movement. Their experiences with city hall and the cops while running the cafe made them even more politically aware. He traveled up north to Washington State and a local group called the Peace and Freedom Party was supporting local anti-war candidates from both the Democrats and Republicans. He dreamed of a real Peace and Freedom Party that would have its own candidates. He returned to Venice and began to organize a new political party with his local pals. He liked the name Peace and Freedom Party and it won out over several other names. So the real Peace and Freedom Party was born in Venice in 1967. They had a terrible time getting the party on the ballot because both Democrats and Republicans didn’t want another political party to take away their votes. John and his new group needed 68,000 people to register in the new party. This meant you had to change your party affiliation from Democrat or Republican to Peace and Freedom. They had to battle all sorts of obstacles. With plenty of hard work they got 105,000 people to register to the new Peace and Freedom Party. He had stopped me walking on the boardwalk many a time to bug me to help him get signatures or to go to some rally or demonstration. I went once or twice but I usually tried to think up some excuse! I wasn’t very political. I spent all my spare time playing basketball. I told John on their first try with their own candidates that he should run for President. He told me that nobody outside Venice knows him and they needed someone with name recognition. He said maybe he might run at some later time and he did run for President later on. The Peace and Freedom Party ran Eldridge Cleaver who was well known at the time. During the war years the new party got quite a few votes. More recently, in 2012 they ran the comedienne Roseanne Barr for President.
John thought they needed a voice for the new party and their anti-war ideals. They thought of having a radio or TV show, but John figured they could start with a local newspaper. In 1968 the Free Venice Beachhead began. “This paper is a poem” was his idea to have poetry, art and political and local news that is ignored or misreported in the other newspapers. When asked what “Beachhead” meant John said, “It’s a military term describing the initial phase of an invasion. But of course I had in mind that we were all beach heads!” He didn’t want to run the paper himself and thought a collective of people who care could run it. He worked on the first couple of issues, but he was spending more and more time on the Peace and Freedom Party. John reminisced about the Beachhead, “ Of course it was all volunteer. Nobody got paid or anything. The personnel in the collective changed from time to time, and sometimes fairly rapidly, but there were always people to come in and put the paper out. I think it was some kind of miracle!” He tried to let the collective run things on the Beachhead. I wanted to be a cartoonist and had done some cartoons in college newspapers. The Beachhead printed a few of my cartoons in 1978 and ‘79. At one point some new collective members began editing my cartoons and I went to whine to John. He told me that the collective decides on the content and he didn’t want to interfere, although he enjoyed my cartoons. I quit, but later I still occasionally submitted a cartoon. Here I am again writing for the Beachhead! I feel I owe John and Anna much for their contributions to Venice. John’s poems and the poets at the coffee house had inspired me and still inspire me now!
Everyone was devastated in Venice when our King and Queen, John and Anna broke up. This was a major tragedy because together they were such a powerful force. Anna once said, “I might love a man, but I love Venice more!” John and Anna continued to work on politics and civil rights until they passed away. John still wrote poems until the end. Anna died in 2003 and John in 2006. Today the Peace and Freedom Party continues the fight against wars. Despite many not believing our Beachhead would ever work, our paper still continues on while most newspapers of that era are long gone. Let us hope and pray our Beachhead will go on forever… Well all you groovy chicks and hip cats, I blew my like crazy thing! It’s time for me to cut out and split until the next cool time. Far out man, ya dig it?

A Short Beat Glossary:
“BLOW” To sound off either with music, poems or words.
“BREAD” Money.
“CAT” A sexy cool male beatnik.
“CHICK” The male beatnik’s Beat girlfriend or any cute gal.
“COOL” Anything you like a lot is cool; cool jazz, cool painting…
“CRAZY” Anything that is kind of wild or new
“CUT OUT” To take one’s leave. To leave.
“DIG” To understand.
“FAR OUT” It really sends you or impresses you. Also, way out.
“GAS” The best, or greatest of times.
“GROOVE OR GROOVY” With it. In the (record) groove. Playing with the beat. Something nice.
“HEAD” Someone smart and also someone who smoked pot.
“HIP” To know. Knowledgeable. In the new style.
“JOINT” A place like a cafe. Also a marijuana cigarette.
“LIKE” To make sense of. Comparative reality.
“MAN” Giving greater emphasis to. Also the police, “The Man”.
“PAD” Your apartment or home.
“SPLIT” To leave or go.
“SQUARE” A conformist to society and culture who can’t drop his suit and tie.
“SWING” Uninhibited. Able to swing with music.

Beachhead, Dec.2003 article by John Haag. ‘Venice West’, 1991 by John Maynard. ‘John Haag Speaks’,YouTube, 2002, posted by Jim Smith. ‘Bohemians’, 2000 by Elizabeth Wilson. ‘Holy Barbarians’,1959 by Lawrence Lipton. Beachhead interview of John Haig, 2002 by Suzy Williams. ‘Venice California Coney Island of the Pacific’, by Jeffrey Stanton. Various -Wikipedia, etc.

This Paper is a Poem
By Marty Liboff

This paper is a poem
We laugh and cry
In joy and sadness
We recite, read and sing
Poems of the world gone wrong
Poems of the world gone right
Beauty and hell
Good and bad times
The changes, the years
The tears, the fears
The misery of the masses
The pain and happiness of an individual
Mankind cursed by society
Money mad developers and corporations
Banks, police, judges
Picking on the poor and helpless
And also the blessings…
The blessings of our Mother Earth
The beauty of a seagull flying by
And the simple kindness of good souls
We laugh and lament
To the passings and new births and new beginnings
The Muses recite and sing to us
The 9 Sisters tell us everything
Mysteries revealed
In adversity we learn and gain strength
For hope for a better future
A poem of life
A song we sing
Sing, sing your song
Of liberty, freedom and love
This paper is a poem…

brittin_west_5

Venice West Cafe

Venice West2

Venice West3

Venice West4

Venice West5

Poetry Reading at Venice West Cafe 1960 - by Robert Huffstutter

 

venicewest


Historical Venice OFW Homes Destined to Be Axed

February 1, 2015

By Pegarty Long

Two of Venice’s oldest houses are about to make way for a new mixed-use project which will include a fine dining glass-enclosed restaurant and two apartments on the building’s second level.
The now boarded-up homes are located at 811-815 Ocean Front Walk (OFW). They were built circa 1905 and represent two of the few remaining original houses on Venice’s OFW. The owners of the property, Vera and Gary Sutter, have submitted an application to the city for a “new mixed-use project consisting of two residential units and a ground floor restaurant with full alcohol bar.” There will be subterranean parking with mechanical lifts and tandem parking with parking attendant.
The owners say that the project fully complies with the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan.
A community meeting, hosted by the architect, John Reed, was held on January 19 to present the plans and renderings for the project.
Long-time residents from the surrounding area attended. A large percentage of the attendees were from Park Avenue, the Venice street which will be most affected by the project.
The plan is for two residential apartments, a fine dining restaurant that will seat 100 and a bar in the back that will seat 16. Hours of operation will be Sunday to Thursday 8am to midnight and Friday and Saturday 9am to 1am. There will be 28 underground parking spaces for the patrons and the building’s residents. No spaces will be allotted for surrounding Venice residents. It will take about 14 to 16 months before construction can begin, given the many applications that must be submitted, and 14  more months of construction, according to Reed.
The chief concerns of the residents were backed up traffic, pollution from the traffic, and noise by the comings and goings of the patrons in the late restaurant hours.
Their small alley, Park Court and surrounding Speedway, a one-way alley, would be the only routes to the restaurant, and street parking in the area is scant.They did not think that 28 parking spaces could accommodate two apartments and a dining room of 100 seats plus 16 in the bar. Reed countered that there would be layered and elevator parking plus valet and that that would help. The residents believe that  would cause backed-up traffic on both Park and Speedway while the cars are being parked. Reed countered that they expect much walk-in business from the people on the Ocean Front Walk. Residents emphatically did not think so. They thought that people on the Ocean Front Walk generally are there for sun and fun and not for fine dining, nor would they be properly dressed for it. They also reminded Reed of the midnight curfew on Ocean Front Walk. Reed responded that the patrons would be asked to leave from the back area during the curfew hours.
Residents also raised the question that those patrons who want fine dining with open bay windows overlooking Ocean Front Walk might find the Ocean Front Walk scene offensive, sometimes even repulsive, and not conducive to fine dining. Reed said he lives in Venice and he knew what the scene was, and didn’t think that would be a problem because the bay windows of the restaurant could be opened or closed.
Residents brought up  the transients in the area and the many who sleep around Park Avenue at night. Reed answered that the owners of the property and he had been in contact with “Mike” (Councilman Mike Bonin) about this and that they were assured by Bonin that he was working on the the problem and it is being resolved.
On the issue of excessive noise, besides the comings and goings of traffic and people from 8am until 12 midnight or 1am each day of the week, Reed was made aware that on Ocean Front Walk musicians are drawn to playing in front of restaurants and other eating places and disturb residents by playing loudly and frequently, often with bongos. These musicians would attempt to get restaurant patrons’ attention and money. The residents were assured by Reed that the building will block any noise because of its sheer size.
Reacting negatively to these statements, the residents also voiced their concerns about the underground water problems that arise when digging deeply into the ground for the underground parking in this area of Venice. They advised the architect to seek consultation with the builders of Thornton Lofts, a large condominium with underground parking a few blocks away. That project was stalled for over a year and went over the estimated budget because of the water that surfaced while digging. Venice, which is located right by the ocean, was built on landfill. (As many seasoned Venetians know, when founder Abbot Kinney flipped that coin in the air and won the toss to choose which of two large areas of real estate to build on, he famously chose what seemed to be the least desirable for his dream of a Venice of America… a swamp.)
When Reed was asked why he did not design a building which would incorporate the existing historical buildings in his design he answered, “this is what the owners want”.
At the end of the meeting Reed thanked all for expressing their concerns.
The project will be presented to the Venice Neighborhood Council  land use and planning committee. Time and place can be confirmed at: http://www.grvnc.org.

Pegarty Long


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 72 other followers